Whether we like it or not, one thing is clear:
We need sleep. In fact, we need it so much that many experts and researchers claim that sleep is at the core of our health and well-being.
The problem is, most people aren’t getting enough sleep. An even bigger problem is, we don’t realize how damaging sleep deprivation can be.
To that end, I’ve put this brief guide for you. In it, we’ll discuss the most important things you need to know related to sleep. In the end, I’ve also shared three actionable tactics you can use to better your sleep.
Let’s take a look…
Why Do We Need to Sleep?
Sleep is integral for us, and research has found two primary reasons why:
1. Sleep maintains our metabolic health
One of the most widely discussed benefits of adequate sleep is that of maintaining our metabolic rate. This is perhaps best illustrated in a prominent study from 2010 (1). The same group of participants had to go through two dieting periods, each lasting for two weeks. In the first condition, subjects got to spend 8.5 hours in bed. In the second, they were allowed to spend only 5.5 hours in bed.
With everything else remaining the same, when subjects had 8.5 hours in bed, they lost equal amounts of fat and muscle. But, when their sleep was restricted to fewer than 5.5 hours per night, 80 percent of their weight loss came from muscle.
This suggests that sleep deprivation alone can predispose us to muscle loss and fat accumulation. Isn’t that interesting?!
2. Sleep keeps the mind healthy
The human brain is an incredibly complicated piece. Every day, thousands upon thousands of processes occur and dictate how we feel, what we think, how we react to the outside world, and much more. This accumulates metabolic by-products/waste that can lead to cognitive decline and neurological disorders.
As we sleep, brain cells shrink noticeably, allowing the glymphatic system to go in and remove the metabolic waste (2).
As a result, the brain is restored, our cognition improves, and we keep neurological disorders at bay. In that regard, sleep is also vital for memory consolidation – our ability to form and hold onto long-term memories (3).
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
According to general guidelines, we need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. The exact amount varies from person to person, and it appears that younger people need more sleep.
According to some experts, the best way to find out how much sleep you need is to start going to bed early and attempt to wake up without an alarm. Over time, you should be able to see how much sleep you need on average.
3 Ways to Improve The Quality And Quantity of Your Sleep
- Improve Your Sleep Environment: One of the most important things you need to consider for a restful sleep is your environment. Specifically, temperature, darkness, and noise play a considerable role (4). It’s vital that you keep your room on the cool side (between 65 and 70 degrees), dark (blackout curtains work great), and quiet. You can also invest in a quality mattress and pillow, as both are important for getting adequate sleep and staying ache-free.
- Setup a Bedtime Routine: The second most important thing to consider here is what you do before bedtime. Specifically, the goal here is to relax your mind and get into the mindset of sleep. So, relaxing activities like taking a bath or shower, reading, meditating, and journaling are beneficial. You can make a pre-bed relaxing routine and spend the last hour of each day winding down.
- Establish a consistent sleep-wake schedule: Lastly, it’s good to establish a consistent sleep-wake schedule, even on the weekends. The body has an internal clock (the circadian rhythm) that allows us to get into a routine and do things at specific times of each day. By going to bed and waking up at consistent times, your body gets used to falling asleep more quickly and waking up without much issue (5).